I am an evolutionary biologist interested in the mechanisms and conditions driving (or constraining) biological diversity. Like most evolutionary biologists I am fascinated not only by the "how", but also the "why" questions. For example, why are there ~350,000 species of beetles and only ~4,500 species of mammals? That might not be a fair comparison, but why is approximately every 30th species of vertebrate a cichlid fish? Beyond that, why do some lineages of cichlid fishes (e.g. Midas cichlids in Nicaragua) diversify so rapidly, while other closely related lineages of cichlids in the same area do not? Understanding why certain lineages diversify much faster than others, and how, are some of the ultimate questions to which I hope to contribute.
Driven by this main motivation, during the last couple of years I have become very interested in the evolution of behaviors. Behavioral traits are arguably often just as important as morphological and physiological traits for adaptation and speciation, but have been –mostly for pragmatic reasons– much less studied in this context. Given their importance and due to the tremendous recent progress in our ability to robustly quantify and dissect behaviors, investigating the genetic and neural bases that contribute to heritable variation in behaviors has become a key objective in my research interests over the years. Deer mice of the genus Peromyscus are an excellent system to study the evolution of behaviors. To learn more, check out my Research.